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Skidmore College Department of Classics

Purpose of Essays
Questions and Topics
Planning the Essay
Writing The Essay
Sample Essay


Study Skills /
Writing In Classics / Essays

Although it might be tempting to begin writing right away, you should outline your essay in detail - especially if you are writing an essay for an examination. There are several reasons why:

1. Outlining focuses your thoughts on the topic at hand.
2. It gives you a chance to develop your argument.
3. It helps you avoid confusion and repetition.
4. It indicates whether you are ready to being writing.

By outlining you are actually producing the essay in its simplest form - one that lays out the main points in your argument, in the order that you intend to make them. This might be paragraph by paragraph, or at least sub-heading by sub-heading. How much detail goes into in planning inside each paragraph or sub-heading is up to you.

It is usually helpful to plan your essay according to a tripartite structure: the initial introduction, the final conclusion, and the intervening paragraphs, or body.

  • The introduction must be concise and direct. It should demonstrate your understanding of the question / topic and state the argument you will adopt in the body of the essay. It should also briefly state how - via what method or evidence - you intend to develop your argument. Leave most of the details and facts for the next section.
  • The body should contain a number of logically connected paragraphs, which present the ideas that are relevant to the question or topic. The order of the paragraphs should be parallel to the outline of your paper.
  • The conclusion should refer back to the question or topic, and it should restate your main argument - although not necessarily verbatim. You might also provide some additional information, such as a proposal of research that would allow a fuller answer to the question.
ŠAugust 2000 Skidmore College Department of Classics
 Created and Maintained by Alexander Carballo '01
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